With Brian Johnson returning for the 2007 season, most agree Utah's offense should be far better than what it was in 2006. However as much as Utah's offense produced in 2005 under Johnson, it failed in the most crucial category on the offensive side of the ball: points per game.
With all the offensive numbers Utah and Brian Johnson put up in '05, the fact they only averaged 28 PPG (not counting the BYU and Georgia Tech games, in which Ratliff started) really doomed them to mediocrity that season. Mostly because in all 5 of their losses, they only averaged 20 PPG. An explosive offense, which Utah should have been capable of providing in 2005, is not supposed to hit a road block like they did in key games two years ago. This makes me a bit skeptical about the production of Utah's offense this season, since I want to see point production equal the numbers Utah has put up on total offense.
I don't want to focus too much on last season, because there were too many variables that hurt the Utes. It was clear Ratliff wasn't the quarterback we thought he was heading into the season and he struggled greatly early on. It wasn't until around the New Mexico game (one lost by Utah's defense, unlike the losses that occurred before -- which could be blamed on the offense) that he found his groove and Utah's offense looked decent enough. Against UNLV, CSU, BYU and even Tulsa, Utah's offense produced at the level many of us thought it would be at heading into the season. That wasn't good enough though, because Utah's yard production ultimately ranked in the middle of the NCAA last year and third in the Mountain West, their final standing in the conference.
With that said, let's compare the 2005 offense to the 2006 offense:TOP
|Points Per Game||Yards Per Game||Pass Yards||Rushing Yards|
|Points Per Game||Yards Per Game||Pass Yards||Rushing Yards||TOP|
I should note these 2005 stats do include the BYU and Emerald Bowl games, where Johnson did not start. I don't know how big of an impact Johnson would have had if he didn't go against the Lobos, but we can just assume Utah would have beaten BYU and still gone to a bowl game.
Clearly 2005 was a better offensive season for the Utes. They had over 100 more yards on offense per game than the 2006 team (Utah actually ranked 12th in the nation that year in total yards per game). So Utah's offense was more productive under the leadership of Johnson than it was Ratliff. That isn't a surprise, but what does surprises me is how big of a difference there really is. While Utah struggled at times in 2005, you've got to wonder if they had this type of offensive production in 2006 what their final record would have been. I'm guessing 10 wins or more and possibly a conference championship. This actually makes me more optimistic about this years Utes offense because I think if we record these types of numbers, along with a higher PPG, the Utes should be very dominate on that end of the ball.
So what can we expect from the 2007 Utes on offense? Well an offense much like that of 2005, with one big difference. In 2005 Utah had Quinton Ganther, who was a solid running back and it's not known at this moment if the Utes have a capable running back to step in and lead part of this offense. Last year they did not have a consistent running game, which cost them dearly.
The key for Utah's offense will be whether or not they can get points from their scoring drives. If they can, this offense will be a top-10 one in not only total offensive numbers, but possibly in points per game as well.
Frankly, I think Utah's offense will be the best in the conference and I just hope we don't see lapses on the offensive end like we did in both 2005 and 2006. If there aren't any, Utah could position themselves for a possible 9 or 10 win season and a conference championship (even if it is a tied one).